6/24: Important Information for First-Year International Students

We are pleased that you have chosen to pursue your bachelor’s degree at USC. International students are well-represented at our University, and we value the unique perspective that you bring to our classrooms and campus community. We admitted you because we believe that you have the potential to make a great positive impact at USC, both inside and outside the classroom. You are well prepared to thrive in college, and we are honored to count you as one of the newest members of our Trojan Family!

As we prepare for August 17, the start of USC’s fall semester, we want to address various topics pertinent to incoming international students. Although there are still many uncertainties, we hope that you will find the following helpful as you plan for your matriculation at USC. Please know that we are working tirelessly to prepare for your arrival, and we pledge to keep you informed as circumstances evolve.

Student Visas

USC has already issued digital I-20 forms (a document required for obtaining a U.S. student visa) to all first-year international students who have committed to enroll. If you have not received yours, check your USC email account; there should be a message with instructions on accessing your I-20.

You should immediately begin the process of obtaining your student visa. Visit the U.S. State Department’s EducationUSA site for a step-by-step guide.

A key element of the student visa process is a one-on-one interview with a consular officer. Although brief, such interviews are required and must be scheduled in advance. We understand that many U.S. Embassies and Consulates have not yet resumed their visa processing operations, but may do so soon. We also know that when they do restart, there will likely be a backlog of requests, which is why it is imperative that you work on this now. Check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country; for further information please visit EducationUSA. Emergency visa appointments may be available.

If you are unable to obtain a student visa in time to arrive in Los Angeles by mid-August, you may still enroll at USC this fall by taking your first-semester coursework remotely. If you pursue this online option, you won’t have to obtain your student visa until later this fall; you will still need it in order to start on campus in January.

Immigration regulations require students who enter the U.S. on a student visa to be enrolled in coursework that is in person on campus. Coming into the U.S. with student immigration status (F-1/J-1) and then not fulfilling the in-person enrollment requirement is considered a serious violation of immigration status. For this reason, the online enrollment option is only available to students who will be outside the U.S. during Fall semester.

Travel to Los Angeles

U.S. student visa-holders are permitted to enter the country up to 30 days before the start of their course of study (for USC’s fall 2020 term, that would mean entry no earlier than July 18). However, as of the date of this message, the United States is enforcing an entry ban on foreign passport holders who have been in certain countries, including China, the United Kingdom, Brazil and most European countries, within 14 days of their arrival to the United States (see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for more information and a full list of countries).

What this means, practically, is that students residing in any of these restricted countries will need to spend at least 14 days in a different, unrestricted country before traveling to the United States.

Furthermore, CDC travel guidelines require anyone arriving from outside the U.S. to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the country. This 14-day self-quarantine period must be completed before arriving on campus.

Please consider these safety restrictions imposed by the U.S. government and plan your travel carefully. If you arrive in the U.S. in advance of the start of classes, also keep in mind that USC Housing will not be able to accommodate you until the University’s formal move-in day (which has not yet been announced, see below) and after you have completed your 14-day quarantine within the United States.

Orientation / Class Registration

If you have not already done so, you should sign-up for new student orientation. Orientation comprises a series of online activities, including academic advisement and first semester course registration. Orientation is designed to introduce you to all the resources available to you as a USC student, as well as to provide you with the essential information that will make your transition to college easier.

As announced earlier this month by USC’s president, Dr. Carol L. Folt, the University plans to re-open campus and offer in-person classes this fall. However, public health restrictions may force the University to limit the numbers of students allowed in classrooms. Because of this, we plan to offer almost all of our undergraduate courses online, in parallel with in-person courses. Doing so will be conducive to our physical distancing efforts and will also enable students who can’t be physically present, due to travel or visa restrictions, to take USC classes this fall and make progress toward their degrees.

In your academic advisement session during orientation, your academic advisor will encourage you to keep time-zone differences in mind when you’re registering for classes. We are asking you to enroll in a full-time schedule of courses now, understanding that some of those courses may be at odd or unrealistic hours in your home time-zone, which may prove problematic if you can’t make it to the U.S. in time for the fall semester.

In early July, after our first-year students have registered, we will assess student schedules and attempt to add alternate class sections at more opportune times for students taking classes online from abroad. Once this occurs, you will be given the option of changing your schedule and adding these courses.


As part of ongoing efforts to ensure the health and safety of our campus community, the University’s experts are working closely with public health officials to ensure that our student housing is configured and assigned in the most appropriate way.

If you have applied for a space in USC Housing, you can expect to receive your assignment soon. Around that same time, further information will be made available about the specifics of moving in, including the official date for “move-in day” (the date when you can first occupy University-owned housing and when USC’s student dining halls open). Although not yet set for this fall, in the past USC’s move-in day has been the Wednesday before the start of classes.

Deferral Requests

The University has saved a spot for you in its entering class and is counting on you to enroll this fall. We understand, however, that the inability to obtain a student visa, difficult travel restrictions, and time-zone challenges may lead students to consider requesting an enrollment deferral. For now, we ask that committed students attend orientation and register for a full schedule of fall courses, as outlined earlier in this message. In mid-July, after we’ve reviewed where things stand, we will have further information about the availability of deferrals based on your status.

Further Questions

We are in a rapidly changing environment, and we will keep you informed as circumstances evolve. However, should you have additional questions or need further information, do not hesitate to contact your USC admission counselor.

Thank you again for choosing USC. A high-quality undergraduate education is more valuable than ever, and we appreciate that you are excited to get your college career underway. We hope you have a restful summer break and look forward to seeing you on campus in the coming academic year.


Kirk Brennan
Associate Dean, Director of Undergraduate Admission

Lisa Starr
Director of Orientation Programs